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Getting round Paris
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Like most French cities, Paris is not a place to visit by car. Parking can be an expensive nightmare (though less so than London), and the city has a great public transport network, with a fast underground network that stretches well into the suburbs.
The public transport system includes buses, the underground and overground metro, the RER (express transit metro), and of course plenty of taxis. Taxis in France are ordinary vehicles with a taxi sign on the roof, not special vehicles as in London.
Visitors who plan to use lots of public transport in Paris may find that the best or cheapest solution is to take a visitor's pass, "Paris Visite", though this is not necessarily the case (see more details below). The Paris Visite passes are available on a 1, 2, 3 or 5 day basis, and cover all types of official public transport in the central area or central area and suburbs, depending on the option chosen.
For more ideas on keeping down your costs, visit the Budget Paris page.
If you plan to use the Paris metro or the bus less than six times in a day, opt for a "carnet" (pronounced Car-nay). This is simply ten standard tickets at a reduced rate (€ 11.10 for ten in March 2009). Carnet tickets have no date limit, and can be shared among members of a group. If you have some left over at the end of your stay, keep them for next time. They are valid on buses, the metro and the "RER" within the cental area (zone 1), and on metro and RER journeys allow as many changes as you want.
Though the Metro is mainly an underground system, several parts of the network are above ground, and offer an interesting way to see Paris from well above street level.
Note: Neither a standard Paris metro ticket nor a central Paris pass are valid on the RER for travel into the suburbs, (zones 2 and upwards) and notably for travel to Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports. For such destinations, you must buy a specific ticket.
Specific destination tickets and carnets are available at all metro stations, and from automatic machines which accept credit cards. Carnets can also be bought in some main French railway stations outside Paris.
Finding your way in the metro.
This is no problem. Using the maps available, check the line number and terminus station of each line you want to take. If you need to change routes, follow the "Correspondance" signs on the platform and through the foot tunnels; these indicate the line numbers and the termini. Just follow the right one. The RATP (Paris transport authority) provides free maps which are usually available in hotels, metro stations and other places.
Paris has two airports, Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to the north and Orly (ORY) to the south.
If you arrive in Paris by air, use public transport to get into central Paris; unless you can squeeze five passengers into a taxi, it will certainly be cheaper.
Charles de Gaulle Airport:
Terminal 1. (British airlines, US carriers, etc.) Take the airport shuttle to "railway station". Once you reach the station (5 minutes) buy ticket/s for central Paris on the "R.E.R." (the express regional network) . Ask for Paris zone urbaine, pronounced Paree, zone yure baine.
See tips and further information below.
Terminal 2. (Air France and partners). The train station is in the terminal. Follow the signs for Gare TGV / Railway station. Once you reach the ticket office for "RATP" (Paris urban transport network / RER/ Metro) buy ticket/s for central Paris on the "R.E.R." (the express regional network) . Ask for Paris zone urbaine, pronounced Paree, zone yure baine.
Useful info: the Paris CDG train-station is served by direct TGV high-speed trains linking directly with most French cities: Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Besançon, Dijon, Tours etc.... Check times! This is far easier than taking the RER into Paris, then carting your luggage through to a mainline train terminus.
Take the "Orlyval" light transit shuttles. These take you directly in 8 minutes to the RER (express suburban train) station at Antony. Here you connect to RER line B for a direct and rapid train journey into central Paris. You can also take the Orlybus shuttle direct from the airport, the bus route terminates at Denfert Rochereau metro station in the southern part of central Paris
TIP - passengers arriving at Charles de Gaulle: do not take the slow trains that stop at all or most stations into central Paris. Check on the departure board over the platform. Slow trains are slow, and fill up at all the stations in the northern suburbs - among the less desirable of Paris suburban areas. So wait for a fast train (one out of two for much of the day); you may wait ten minutes longer, but you'll reach Gare du Nord only about 2 minutes behind the slower train. Fast trains are often non-stop to Gare du Nord, others have one or two intermediate stops only. Once into central Paris, fast trains stop at all stations. You will probably need to change once in central paris; your ticket will take you through to any central destination.For other changes, follow the indicator boards, having noted which RER or metro routes you want.
On your way in to Paris, note the futuristic "Stade de France" (French national football stadium) on your right as you pass St. Denis.
TIP - If you arrive by air in Paris for a day trip, buy the 1 day "Paris visite" visitor pass for zones 1-5, which includes the airports. that way you also have unlimited hop-on hop-off public transport during your day in Paris
TIP - Changing trains at "Chatelet" metro hub. Chatelet is the biggest interconnection station on the Paris metro system: three main RER routes cross here, notably B (for the airports) and A (serving the Gare de Lyon and Disneyland). If you are changing from a southbound "B" train to a south/east bound "A" train, (for instance, coming from Charles de Gaulle airport and heading for Gare de Lyon or Disneyland, a common combination), just cross the platform. The same goes if you are taking these routes in the opposite direction (for example coming from Gare de Lyon and heading for Charles de Gaulle airport). Nothing could be simpler!
TIP - Your ticket. Always keep your ticket until your journey is finished, even if it is just a single journey ticket. If you use the RER in the central urban area of Paris (which you can do, of course), you will need to put your ticket through the machine both to get onto the platforms and again to get out of the RER area.
PASSES are often the easiest solution, but not necessarily the cheapest ...
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